Below is the full and in-depth interview that we have conducted with with Mr. Chandi regarding his start-up “Airsee.com”:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Airsee” is all about?
The internet has been a good communication platform for connecting people who are interacting through blogs, pages, posts and comments. It still lacks the real-life face-to-face interaction and personal communication that is fun. It seems to be full of content, but it is lacking real people. Airsee looks forward to help change this.
Airsee is an ad-free video streaming and interaction website that lets anyone address a large audience while meeting new people face to face through Live Video.
We’ve been able to offer this ad-free video platform due to Adobe’s new RTMFP peer-to-peer video broadcasting technology which doesn’t cost us bandwidth.
Our key use-case is a Celebrity or Musician interacting with large numbers of fans one-to-many and face-to-face. We offer unique URLs to broadcasters e.g. http://airsee.com/name. Here, fans can see them live and start a chat. The audience does not need to create an Airsee.com account to get started.
Airsee.com is fully Twitter integrated which means easy access to celebrities, celebrities followers, and added security for the interaction. With the ability to communicate one on one with their followers Airsee plans to be a hotspot for new and old celebrities alike.
2. When has “Airsee” been founded? And what stage is “Airsee” currently at?
It all started as a small hackathon project which was built in 2 days and attracted over 200 users in a couple hours of launch in December 2011.
We’ve built out the product and are signing up new users everyday. We also have started working with musicians and celebrities.
Our new features are aimed at helping musicians sell more music by interacting with Fans and driving traffic to their music store through ‘Store’ button and ‘Store URL’.
3. What is “Airsee” business model and how does it work?
Currently, we are focused on product. We are a free and ad-free service focused on helping musicians and celebrities drive traffic to their music stores and merchandise.
In the future, we will monetize using some form of celebrity commerce, Ads and possibly gaming currencies. Last we will be incorporating charitable interactions. These will be to help the celebrity with a good cause and gain them more and more fan appreciation.
Celebrities will be able to set-up stores with personally endorsed goods for fans to purchase. We will facilitate the whole transaction.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Co-founders Rajan, and Taliesin met through social media platforms. Both of the Co-founders had similar interests and dreams of where internet video could go. Rajan is the brains of the site and Taliesin is the brawn.
Rajan has built sites in the past most recently Hireplug, which gained a lot of attention from large companies, but Rajan was more interested in online video. Taliesin started a website called Fansfifteen.com which was trying to promote celebrity and fan interaction. Together they are bringing Airsee.com to the market and trying to make a splash in the void of internet fun.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
All the video streaming options are full of video ads. These Ads interrupts live streams. It is a big problem e.g. While a musician is streaming to hundreds of fans, their fans are watching the ads.
Current live video platforms lack clear interactivity with a large crowd. e.g. Google hangout interaction is limited to only 10 people and the rest of them are just watching it. Airsee offers an opportunity for everyone in the audience to be part of the show at the discretion of the celebrity.
We have achieved this interactivity through converting names in the group chat to links which can be clicked by celebrity to have face-to-face interaction with the audience. e.g. A musician with 1000s of fans is inviting them for an online show, everyone in the audience has a fair chance to interact with the celebrity face-to-face to ask questions or appreciate the act.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Airsee” achieved so far?
We’ve crossed a significant number of registered users but we are private and wish not to disclose the numbers publicly.
Our largest milestones have to do with the celebrities that we have attracted to partake in a live interaction. These interactions will be a huge part of bringing in the first couple of thousand people that we need. Once we get these first thousand of users then the site can start to get an identity of what the users what it to be. Another milestone is having our first 100 people who have signed in to become regular users.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Airsee”‘s competitive advantage over them?
Airsee.com has a few major players who we consider to be competitors. Ustream has been around the longest and has produced hundreds of celebrity and fan interactions but has since lost the celebrities interest. The biggest competitors are the ones that are still in development right now. Here are some of the platforms out now.
Google Hangouts, we offer better interactivity to the audience as it is not limited to only 10 people.
Ustream, It comes with interrupting ads which are played every time a fans start streaming the video.
Livestream and Justin.tv also fall into the same bucket. These services do not offer one-on-one face-to-face interaction as offered by Airsee.com.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We started out with a quick product which was built in 2 days and had no registration to use the product. Some users started coming to the site without clothes on and started making improper demands. Finally, we had to put a Twitter Sign-in in order to user the service and the abuse have stopped.
It is a very new kind of platform and one of the first of it’s kind. So, it was hard for users to understand the service. Now, we needed a better design to educate the users about Airsee.
We faced some scaling issues and bugs that we fixed to perfect the product.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Live video is the best form of communication over internet. It lets you transform large data and helps built relationships and can also be used for deal making.
Current public perception of live webcam is not positive and people are less comfortable streaming themselves live. We believe this is changing rapidly for the better. Live video can permanently change the way we communicate over the internet.
People do not realize that this is the next step in the evolution of media and pop culture. Right now sites like YouTube dominate the time that young kids spend watching media. YouTube is not live though, and the next progression is that live video will take the stage as the primary consumer of our youths media time.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We have the best technology and easiest user interface. Also, there are clearly defined incentives for our users to use the service.
We have spent a lot of time watching what our competitors have done right and what they have done wrong. Ustream had celebrities on but they were to focused on the big picture. They featured matt the dj in his basement or the Jones family dog having puppies instead of Nicki Minaj doing a live interaction with fans which brought in 40,000 people live. Ustream was also very complex. I have seen countless videos where the celebrity has stopped the recording early because they don’t know if it has started.
We are different. We are focused on the one on one celebrity and fan interaction. We are very simple, and we have charity on our mind and a way to get big celebrities to what to come back to the site multiple times over.
We’ve seen the desire for people to use the service.
11. If “Airsee” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We might expand into live video gaming, communication, celebrity e-commerce and possibly social networking.
Once the site has really succeeded we will know more about what our community wants from us. We see Airsee as being special, this is why we have used Twitter as a login to promote special people with followers. We want to expand on just that. Differentiating ourselves form the rest of the pack even further. Giving people an experience of speaking to their favorite celebrity face to face without having to leave the comfort of their own home.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Airsee” based on?
We believe people want to connect and they are bored of existing way of communication on the internet. We see that the internet is lacking a real-life communication and hence is much less fun.
We feel like Airsee will be a way for people to connect with someone that they would never be able to connect with on a usual basis. The ability to speak to their favorite celebrity live is something that no one offers, and no one can just go out and purchase. With Airsee anyone can experience asking a personal question to their celebrity, or being put on stage next to their favorite comedian and being part of their act.
Rajan as a founder spent a large deal of time on the internet and found that it was not as much fun as it should be. We look forward to bring life to the internet.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
We learned that users need clear incentives to go live on the webcam. This incentive is to be able to speak to their favorite celebrity. This is more than incentive this is a once in a lifetime chance to feel like they are in the same room as the celebrity.
Products must be simpler and more informative for people to understand when they login the first time. If a product is too complex or unattractive then it will be brushed aside like the rest of the platforms.
Analytics are truly important and can be useful in decision making. With numbers comes decisions. We look at growing our numbers and really finding out what part of the site is being used the most, celebrity interactions or everyday user interactions.
Keeping users coming back is a difficult task. We have lots of celebrities attending the site but we still need more to keep users entertained.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Hopefully scaling the product to thousands of fans as more celebrities joins in and start using the service. There will also be potential of people coming on the cams without clothes on and we will need to implement some form of screening mechanism to prevent abuse.
The largest problem will most likely be concerning the newest platforms that are coming online. They are coming in late in the game with a lot of money and power behind them. They have the advantage of seeing what works and does not work and acting on them. We must keep our competitive advantages very high, and our users very happy to keep our stake as a top video platform.
15. What’s the benefit for the user?
Airsee makes it possible to interact face-to-face with a large audience. It also offers a ‘Store’ button which can be used to drive traffic to the user’s e-store. That way anyone can sell to a large audience over the internet and generate revenues.
Benefits and value also come in the form of interaction with celebrities. The interactions will be a chance to feel like they are someone famous or special. If a fan has a good interaction with a celebrity the celebrity could help them promote themselves by telling all of the viewers that they should follow them on Twitter.
16. How did customers and/or users find out about you?
They generally find out through social networks especially Twitter. Our integration with Twitter allows them to notify their followers and they can click the link to see the celebrity live.
We have told people far and wide using all of the social media avenues. We have spent a lot of time on Twitter telling celebrities that we want to be apart of our platform about us. We have send emails to IMDb clients and contacted local musicians and comics.
We are still so very new at this time and are waiting for more and more users to join. We are attempting to get to our 50,000 user mark by the end of June 2012.
17. Who are your current users? Who are your target users?
Current users are a combination of tech enthusiasts, early adopters and musicians.
We look forward to bring more musicians and celebrities on-board.
Fans of the musicians and celebrities are our real target market. These fans will be the ones who will hit the celebrities store button and purchase items that these celebrities love. The fans are their loyal followers and will flock toward Airsee.com once they know that their favorite celebrities will be here.
The target user would most likely be a younger crowd. They should have the newest technology and know how to use it.
18. Where do new users come from and what makes new users try you?
They generally come from social networks and referrals. Our product is simple and does one thing right. So, it is easy to login with Twitter and start using the service.
The service is not like anything else out there. It is very clean and will defiantly create repeat users. New users are going to come because they hear that their favorite celebrity will be doing a live interaction, or a new band is doing a live acoustic show. One fan will tell their friends who will tell their friends and suddenly we will be pushing major traffic.
19. What do your users say about your product and/or service?
They like the product and ad-free video streaming. They’ve also appreciated the interaction that it provides to these users.
Our celebrities that have come on the site so far love the fact that they can speak face to face with any one of their followers in the chat room. Once the user is up on the stage they are viewed by all of the audience. Being apart of something like this is very beneficial to the celebrity and they really like the fact that they are safe in the comfort of their own home yet can make a face to face appearance with one of their super-fans.
20. How are you going to scale?
We look to build a strong community of musicians and celebrities and spread through the social networks.
As we have specified before we look to bring on more celebrity acts and with these acts comes more users. The more users we get the better for not only Airsee but all of the other acts as well for when they go on there will be more people curious about all the other acts that are live at any given time.
Also, we look to integrate with other social tools and websites to bring more users to the site.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers keep asking for?
Our users and our celebrity acts have wanted us to bring on a large screen feature. The issue here is there are a lot of things that we want out users to be interacting with with the show is going on. This feature also takes up a lot of bandwidth and some slower computers might not be able to handle the bigger video screen.
Users have also requested some ability to change their pages to make the page more personalized. This is a feature that we have looked into. The site would love to someday give anyone the ability to have their screen look the way they want, without making the site unusable.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are an internet service and have been international from day one. We could possibly have offices in other parts of the world if we need them for sales purposes but at this point we are based in Silicon Valley and focused on the product.
Because we are run through the internet and we are open to the public we are accessible to anyone anywhere. All a user needs is a computer which has a camera and a mic.
The possibilities are endless. There are so many bands and comedians around that world that have Twitter accounts. With these accounts they have existing followers, and with these followers they can start to monetize their time on Airsee.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We can be really big with a potential of the most users on internet having access to webcams, high bandwidth and Airsee. The internet is changing and more people are coming on their cams fast. All the mobile phones and laptops today ship with a cam built in. The internet is going to be different soon.
We plan on building the best product and community that gains maximum value out of our product as more users join the service.
With live video the internet can become the next way that we interact with each other. There is a new kind of reality TV and it is going to dominate the marketplace just like traditional reality TV is dominating now.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
We are not looking to hire currently but in the short term, we’ll be looking at Technical and Sales positions. We are looking for new acts to come and join in on speaking with their fans. Any Musician, Comic, Actor, Athlete with a twitter account can sign in and get even closer to their fans. This interaction would take months or even years to accomplish on the road so we believe that everyone should have this chance and be equal with the big boys. Yes please contact us at @airsee_inc. If you know of anyone interested please contact us as well we are open to everyone so please check us out.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We are open to it but not looking for it actively as these can be waste of lot of time. We have been in contact with multiple Venture Capitalists and they are looking for sure fire investments. We are actively pursuing angel investment but we are most likely going to have to get our 50,000 users before we get any real offer of money. At this point we will be the ones in the driver seat and we can get the right amount of funding from the right group to be successful. We are committed to seeing this to its height so we are not in any rush to give away a large chunk of the company. Currently, we are focused on building the product.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Just be focused on your users or customers and keep adding value to their lives. Do not ask for money before you have a workable product with the best team of representatives possible. Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs. There are a lot of people that will not believe in your ideas, but be sure that you always do. If you do lose interest make sure that you know what the repercussions are e.g. going back to work for a salary and being told what to do. There are high highs and low lows but at the end of the day you are doing something that you love and that you believe in. This is the best way to make a living if you can make it.